Mullen Reviews Saturday Morning Practice

Training camp still has days to go, including one more two-a-day session. But with the semester looming it is time tomorrow for the Bulldogs to check out of their hotel and move into regular season lodgings. Including their coach. "I've been in the same room in training camp as I am during the season," Dan Mullen said.

All just part of the preseason routine Mullen has established over three August camps here at Mississippi State. And he wants it known, the hotel staff will miss their week-long lodgers…or at least there are no souvenirs of player presence. The guys are too tired to misbehave, said the coach. "They eat downstairs in the conference room, they go to their room, and fall asleep."

Unfortunately, there were times this morning that Mullen wondered if everyone had gotten their wake-up call. Because based on his review, the first part of Saturday's two-a-day schedule was not up to his standards. At least the Bulldogs will have an afternoon session to make up lost ground with the coach, as they prepare for the 13th practice of camp.

Coach Dan Mullen: "I'm disappointed today. Just a lot of guys feeling sorry for themselves out there on the feld. It's hot, they're tired. But this is the SEC West. When you have five of the six teams in the SEC West ranked I the top 25 in the country, you can't be feeling sorry for yourself. You have to improve every single day if you want to improve in this league."

"So we've got to come back this afternoon. And it's going to be a tough practice on them this afternoon, because my expectations of this program are pretty high and we've got to get more effort than we gave this morning."

Q: Was there any area in particular that disappointed you? "No, just throughout the whole practice. We did some different things. Today was much more situational. We did more game-like scrimmages yesterday; today was more situational, some third downs, back to the wall, two-points plays. Kind of like a regular practice today."

Q: What was the problem you saw? "They're hot, tired. We've got to play much harder. Our expectations of effort and what we expect out of our guys is much more than what I saw today. We expect to win the West; what we gave today is not going to get it done."

Q: Is this the time of camp this usually creeps up? "I don't know. Not if we're going to win a championship, we're not going to let it creep up on us. I promise you we're going to get after them this afternoon, that's for sure."

Q: Do you have anything special planned this year to honor Nick Bell's jersey? "I don't think so. No one is going to wear #36 this year. But I know as soon as he would have graduated we're going to do something special with that jersey. Make it a special jersey to have. So I'm not exactly set on what we're going to do with it, but this year no one is going to wear that jersey number."

Q: What is the plan for this afternoon? "Hopefully the weather holds off so we can stay outside. I want it to be nice and hot, and I want us to fight through, be a little mentally tougher than we were. If the weather creeps in and we have to inside, I think that gives them a little bit of a break, a little bit of a breather. So I hope it does stay hot, we can get outside and really push our guys to the limit and see how far we want to go."

Q: Who do you lean on to get through this? "On the defensive side of the ball it's got to be Fletcher Cox up front, it's got to be Charles Mitchell and Wade Bonner on the back end. On the offensive side of the ball it's got to be the guys at each position. Quentin Saulsberry, Chris Relf, Vick Ballard, Chad Bumphis. The guys that have played a bunch, they have to set up and they have to set the standard. They have to play at a certain level, the other guys are going to watch them and if they're playing with relentless effort going as hard-out as they can, well then we can expect the whole team to look to that. If they give in an inch well then it seems like it's OK for the young guys to give in an inch. You know, if the leaders are doing it, Coach, then I can do it."

Q: Has this been one of the healthiest preseasons you've had? "Yeah, that's a credit to Matt Balis and his staff. He does a great job of getting our guys ready. Justin Gremillion our trainer takes care of them. We're very, very preventative in what we've done. Obviously the heat, it hasn't been as hot as it has been in the past so that's helped."

"We really spend a lot of time, myself and John Clark, Matt, and Justin, we'll put a lot of research into when we can practice, what time of day. Over the last three years if we're on the field at 11 am what is the temperature, what is the performance level of our team, what's the optimal rest time between practices for us. What they're eating, all of that stuff. And we work really hard to try to keep those guys healthy."

Q: No major injuries so far then? "No."

Q: Do you know how many you have on scholarship? "Do I know? Uh-huh. We'll let you know! Usually what we do, if we're not at 85 we'll give out a scholarship here and there to some deserving walk-ons. But it's usually guys that are seniors."

"We've done it every year, I think we've done eight or nine since I've been here and you probably wouldn't even know who they were. But guys that committed to the program four years, in their senior year you know they're champions in the classroom, champions in the community, they're champions on the field for us. That's a deserving candidate of a scholarship."

Q: We talked about John Banks yesterday, is there anyone else who might play both ways? "We might use Fletcher Cox in some goal line situations. He's just really athletic. James Carmon obviously in the same situations could play both sides of the ball, just on the size and the athleticism on the line, using big bodies to do those things."

"Probably that's about it. Because none of the receivers are going to jump over and play DB unless there's injuries, because we have some depth there. And then it will be real minimal coming the other way because we have depth at receiver. When you start to have that depth you see a little less of that. The guy that switches has to make you better on that side of the ball."

Q: Is Sunday the team's last day housed at the hotel, when is checkout? By eleven a.m. I've got to check out of the hotel myself!"

IT'S WHATS FOR SUPPER: The Bulldogs have labored long and hard on the Farm, their temporary training camp facility. Come Monday evening they'll receive some real rewards of farming, as MSU's Animal and Dairy Science department and the Mississippi Beef Council and Mississippi Cattelman's Association sponsor sponsor an evening event for them.

MSU players and staff will receive a steak dinner at 6:30, and if they so choose—and aren't exhausted by their final two-a-day session—can participate in rural life activities like milking cows and tossing hay bales. Media members have been invited as well, which should make for some interesting moments.

The event is inspired by MSU's third August of practicing on a field adjacent to Leveck Animal Research Center, popularly known to generations of alumni as South Farm.

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